The History of the McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys
Everyone remembers the joy of getting a happy meal at McDonald's and eagerly awaiting your Happy Meal Toy. Whether in the Furbie era or the time of Batman Returns, McDonald's has a knack for supplying the best toys to go along with their fries and hamburger.
Happy Meal Toys for Disney World's 50th Anniversary
Fortunately for those with fond memories of McDonald's happy meal toys, McDonald's is soon celebrating the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort. On October 1st, our favorite fast food chain will begin supplying 50 different McDonald's Happy Meal toys and a Happy Meal box, going back into the history of happy meal fan favorites over the years.
The available limited-time toys for the 50th anniversary celebration will include EARidescent 8 characters, along with many old-school character toys. Each toy represents one of the Walt Disney World theme parks; Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Disney's Hollywood Studios, or Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park. Here's the full list of characters you might find in your throw-back happy meal:
Celebration Mickey Mouse, Flounder, Timothy Mouse, Abu, Genie, Bambi, Celebration Dale, R2-D2, Celebration Minnie Mouse, Sebastian, Bruni, Tinker Bell, Bo Peep, Cheshire Cat, Miguel, Joe Gardner, Celebration Daisy Duck, Celebration Goofy, Piglet, Lumiere, Frozone, Dory, Dante, BB-8, Celebration Pluto, Lady Tramp, Jaq, Rocket, Edna Mode, Jiminy Cricket, Simba, Winnie The Pooh, Cogsworth, Gus, Hei Hei, Mad Hatter, Stitch, Woody, Groot, Olaf, Pua, Pinocchio, Celebration Donald Duck, Dumbo, Pumbaa, Thumper, Celebration Chip, Nemo, and Timon.
To take a trip down McDonald's memory lane, we've looked into the history of McDonald's Happy Meal Toys, from their debut in the '70s to their current glory. These are simply highlights of each year, and not a comprehensive list. Which ones were your favorites growing up?
The History of Happy Meal Toys
Although McDonald's first opened in 1940, the Happy Meal wasn't created 1979. By then, McDonald's had already become one of the most popular fast food restaurants worldwide. The first happy meal box had a circus theme and contained fries, cookies, a soft drink and a toy. The toy options were "McDoodler" stencils, "McWrist" wallets, bracelets, erasers, puzzles and spinning tops.
At the end of 1979, McDonald's partnered with Star Trek, offering Star Trek-themed toys. This was the start of a long history of McDonald's basing their toys on a TV show, movie or video game.
In 1982, McDonald's recalled 10 million Playmobil Happy Meal toys because they were a choking hazard to small children. In exchange, they offered a refund, a box of cookies or an ice cream cone.
In 1983, McDonald's went for gender-themed toys; the "boys toys" were Hot Wheels and the "girls toys" were Barbie dolls.
In 1984, Ghostbusters was all the rage, so McDonald's offered toys form the original movie along with the cartoon Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats.
In 1985, McDonald's jumped on the My Little Pony bandwagon, featuring a series of adorable My Little Pony toys in their kids meals. These were so beloved that McDonald's brought them back throughout the 90's and 2000's.
In 1986, McDonald's went for a more scholarly approach, offering kid's books rather than the typical figurines. The series was called "An American Tail," and there were four separate stories detailing the adventures of a lovable mouse, Fievel. Later that year, McDonald's used "Boo Buckets" rather than Happy Meal boxes as a Halloween theme.
In 1987, McDonald's embraced the Transformers theme with their McDobots, which were mini McDonald's foods transformed into tiny robots. Adorable, right? They also came out with Muppet Babies toys this year. From 1987 to 1991, McDonald's made a series of Disney toys as well, like Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, and more.
In 1988, the fast food giant made cute little chicken nugget toys called Nugget Buddies, successfully promoting their Chicken McNuggets.
In 1990, the McDonald's Collectors Club was started, the perfect way for nostalgic McDonald's lovers to commemorate their favorite happy meal toys. Along with Disney, this year's toys were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle drink cups, which were sold in place of the classic to-go cups.
In 1991, United Airlines began offering Happy Meals on flights, excluding the fires because they don't reheat well. Along with this, Dino Changeables became the new toy- dinosaurs that changed into Happy Meal boxes!
In 1992, Batman Returns was all the rage. The kids meals toys were Batman-themed, from action figures to cars driven by Batman characters.
In 1993, McDonald's honored the earth by making Earth Day Happy Meal toys, like a terrarium, shovel, binoculars and bird feeder.
In June of 1994, the fast food chain gave out pieces of the "Happy Birthday" train in each box, with characters like the Bernstein Bears and E.T.
In 1995, Mcdonald's went for Spider-Man toys. Then in June, they added Batman Forever glasses. When Halloween rolled around, they tried some new ideas, with the spooky sounds cassette tapes and Ronald McDonaldland characters wearing Halloween costumes.
In 1996, Space Jam hit big, so the fast food chain made Space Jam toys that fit together like a puzzle. These are a fan favorite among millennials!
In 1997, it was all about Disney. From Hercules to Sleeping Beauty to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, favorite Disney characters could be found in McDonald's kids meals.
In 1998, Happy Meals contained all of the best 90's toys, like Hot Wheels, Barbies, Legos, Doug action figures, TY Teenie Beanie Babies, and Tamagotchi's of course.
In 1999, these 90's classics continued to reign, and mini versions of Furbies were added to the list. What a time to be alive!
In 2000, Barbies, Beanie Babies and Hot Wheels continued to be given out in kids meals, along with fingerboards- the tiny skateboards that were all the rage in the early 2000s.
By 2003, video games were rising in popularity, so McDonald's hopped on the trend. Each Happy Meal included retro mini games based on Super Monkey Ball and Sonic the Hedgehog.
In 2004, the fast food chain tried a new strategy- appealing to adult McDonald's lovers. the "Adult Happy Meal" contained a salad, Dasani water, a pedometer, and a short fitness DVD.
In 2006, Happy Meals included none other than Build-a-Bear stuffed animals! What I wouldn't do to go back to the days of Build-a-Bear birthday parties.
In 2007, McDonald's featured toys from the 2000's classic shows and movies American Idol, Pirates of the Caribbean, Cartoon Network shows, and even Kids Bop CDs. This was a hit and continued through 2009.
In 2010, the fast food chain offered toys based on classics like Megamind, Transformers, Hello Kitty, Marvel Heroes, Star Wars, How to Train Your Dragon, Alvin and the Chipmunks and more.
In 2011, the chain made their Happy Meals a bit healthier with apple slices and a smaller bag of fries. The toys that accompanied this change were some of the same as the year before, along with Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Smurfs, Power Rangers Samurai toys, and more.
In 2012, SpongeBob was featured. The kids meals promoted the 2012 Summer Olympics as well, so Spongebob and his buds were shown doing sports like basketball and skateboarding.
In 2013, Happy Meals began to have QR codes liking to HappyMeal.com, like coloring sheets, games, and e-books.
In 2014, the fast food chain made available Book of Life Halloween pails, Penguins of Madagascar toys, Spy Gear, Mario Kart 8, The Lego Movie toys, and more.
In 2016, McDonald's jumped on the emoji train with cute emoji stuffed animals. They also came out with the McPlay App for kids, bringing another digital twist to the kids meal.
In 2018, the fast food restaurant offered extra merchandise for those who ordered Uber Eats.
2019 was the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal, so the chain brought some old classics back to like, like Power Rangers, My Little Ponies, Furbies, and Disney toys.
In 2020, McDonald's honored first responders of the COVID-19 pandemic with free "Thank You Meals" for first responders. These included thank you notes rather than toys, and showed pics of real first responders eating at McDonald's as kids.
This year, the Happy Meals include old classics like Pokémon Cards, Star Wars and Beans Boos, along with Marvel Studios Eternal toys, Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary toys, Ron's Gone Wrong toys, Space Jam 2 toys, and more.
The current plans for Happy Meal toys in 2022 involve Power Rangers, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Thor Love and Thunder, Puss in Boots The Last Wish, and more!